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The Merchants of Bollywood

Published Friday 27 October 2006 at 15:20 by Richard Edmonds

This all-singing, all-dancing Bollywood-type musical extravaganza works wonderfully well in a mundane all-purpose set backed by the predictable star-cloth.

The story, all too predictable, need not concern us over-much. Ayesha is a young temple dancer who abandons her ex-film director grandfather for the allure of Bollywood. In other words, Shiva gets left behind in favour of Travolta-style show dancing and hip-hop.

But this is what we came for and the Bollywood dancing - created in Mumbai for the tour - is the evening’s greatest selling point, along with glittering costumes in a glam-fab development of ethnic styles, which shimmer bravely under the lights.

Occasionally Ayesha - played Carol Furtado, who somehow lacks dramatic clout) collides with showbiz tensions as she pursues her chosen path of film choreographer but narrative banalities, inconsistencies and other shortcomings are swept away by the sheer, sexy energy of the company dancers, who overwhelm with their physical beauty.

“What use is the past if it holds us back?” says Ayesha at one point, and in today’s climate it seemed a particularly relevant line.

Eventually Ayesha marries the chief dancer, a heavily tattooed muscle boy, whose shirt is mostly ripped off and whose torso would give any cover of Mens’ Health a run for its money. He has no lines at all, however, so we know nothing about him or his individual foibles.

In this show it is the anonymous company dancers who leave a permanent memory and you cannot take your eyes off them as they switch constantly from Kathak to disco without losing momentum. The finale fades away limply into a silent blackout just when octane levels are at their highest, thus the up-beat atmosphere was somehow lost. Overall, however, the show is terrific.

Production information

Alexandra, Birmingham, October 24-November 2, then touring until December 31

Toby Gough, who also directs
Mark Brady
Carol Furtado, Arif Zakaria, Tony Mirchandani, Deepak Rawat, Pramad Pathak, Romi Jaspal
Running time:
2hrs 20mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014